Welcome Back Stricker Others Return to Maui

By Associated PressJanuary 3, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Steve Stricker was decked out in white -- shirt, shorts, shoes and legs -- when he loaded his bag onto a cart, gazed at the Pacific Ocean beyond the lush green fairways of Kapalua and asked a most pertinent question.
 
'Driving range this way, right?' he said with a grin.
 
It has been six years since Stricker was eligible to play in the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship that kicks off the PGA TOUR season on Thursday. There were times he wondered if he would ever get back, especially two years ago when he lost his card and had to write sponsors asking for an invitation.
 
Few players in the 31-man field are more grateful to be here.
 
And few are more determined to get back.
 
Stricker earned his way at The Barclays, the first event in the PGA TOUR Playoffs, with birdies on his last three holes for a two-shot victory over K.J. Choi, his first in more than 6 1/2 years. It culminated a hard-earned comeback that began in the winter of '05, when Stricker hit balls in the Wisconsin winter out of a three-sided mobile home to a frozen practice range.
 
So remarkable was his turnaround that he was voted PGA TOUR comeback player of the year two straight seasons, a feat that probably will never be equaled.
 
So a trip to paradise is the perfect time to soak up his success, right?
 
Not quite.
 
'I still feel like I have to prove some things,' Stricker said. 'I want to prove some things to myself. I'd love to win again. I had so much fun at The Barclays, it just whetted my appetite and I got the feeling that I can do again. And I want to do it again.'
 
Some players who have hit rock-bottom and crawled their way out were determined not to let that happen again. Hal Sutton was in that spot a decade ago, and when he returned to the top of his game, he rarely put the clubs away for more than a few days, fearful that he would lose his edge again.
 
Stricker isn't taking it to that extreme.
 
He still loves to spend time in the offseason in a deer stand or on a lake, taking a five-day fishing trip to Canada and spending another five days in the woods with his father-in-law and coach, Dennis Tiziani.
 
But it's time to get back to work, and Stricker is more interested in where he's going than where he has been.
 
'It's the nature of the game. It has its ups and downs,' he said. 'I've been there already. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't scare me anymore. I've dealt with all the negative stuff.'
 
It's all positive at Kapalua, where the 31 players who showed up for Opening Day are reminded of what got them here: Winning.
 
Stephen Ames was the final qualifier, winning the last PGA TOUR event of 2007 at Disney and earning the distinction of being the first player to tee off Thursday in the 2008 season.
 
Paul Goydos wins the award for waiting the longest to return. The last time he played in the Mercedes was in 1997, when it was held at La Costa, the year Tiger Woods made his tournament debut by beating Tom Lehman in a one-hole playoff on the only hole above water.
 
It was Woods' third victory in his PGA TOUR career. Goydos still had one.
 
When Goydos earned his second victory, Woods already was up to No. 54, including 13 majors. Doing some quick math, Goydos figured his rate of winning was once every 55 wins for Woods.
 
'I went up to him at the Masters and said, 'You know, you need to get to 110 (victories) a lot faster than 11 years,' he said.
 
Woods won't get a chance to pick one up this week because he is skipping the Mercedes for the third straight year, and he has company. Phil Mickelson continued his hiatus from Kapalua that began in 2002, while British Open champion Padraig Harrington and Adam Scott also decided not to play.
 
That should make it easier to win, and the odds keep getting better considering other factors.
 
The TOUR Championship only has a 30-man field, but it's at the end of the season when everyone has played their way to East Lake. Most of these guys at Kapalua have loads of rust, having not hit a meaningful shot in a month or more. Thirteen players have never competed on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, with its mountainous terrain, massive greens and severe slopes.
 
So the toughest tournament to get into might actually be the easiest to win.
 
'Never thought of it that way,' Mark Calcavecchia said. 'There's 31 guys here this year, and there's 30 at the TOUR Championship. But Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren't here, so that increases your chances of winning greatly.'
 
The defending champion is Vijay Singh, who is close to being fully confident in his revamped swing and has been working harder than ever in the offseason, mostly on his fitness.
 
'I worked out hard,' he said Wednesday. 'My offseason was pretty much working harder than other guys, so it's like a break when I come out on the road.'
 
It doesn't hurt players like Singh, U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and Henrik Stenson that 16 inches of rain one week last month, and 3 inches at the start of the week, has made the Plantation soft and longer than ever.
 
Singh said it starts with being ready.
 
'Half of the guys will show up here because they've won and they want to get prepared this week,' he said. 'I'm prepared when I come over here. If you look at it that way, I think I've only got half the guys to beat. So many guys are coming from cold. Half of America is under snow, I think. I'm ready to play and ready to win.'
 
Stricker came from the snow, and he's ready to win, too.
 
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    Lesson with Woods fetches $210K for Harvey relief

    By Will GrayDecember 13, 2017, 2:51 pm

    A charity event featuring more than two dozen pro golfers raised more than $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, thanks in large part to a hefty price paid for a private lesson with Tiger Woods.

    The pro-am fundraiser was organized by Chris Stroud, winner of the Barracuda Championship this summer, and fellow pro and Houston resident Bobby Gates. It was held at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas, about an hour outside Houston and the first Woods-designed course to open in the U.S.

    The big-ticket item on the auction block was a private, two-person lesson with Woods at Bluejack National that sold for a whopping $210,000.

    Other participants included local residents like Stacy Lewis, Patrick Reed and Steve Elkington as well as local celebrities like NBA All-Star Clyde Drexler, Houston Texans quarterback T.J. Yates and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.

    Stroud was vocal in his efforts to help Houston rebuild in the immediate aftermath of the storm that ravaged the city in August, and he told the Houston Chronicle that he plans to continue fundraising efforts even after eclipsing the event's $1 million goal.

    "This is the best event I have ever been a part of, and this is just a start," Stroud said. "We have a long way to go for recovery to this city, and we want to keep going with this and raise as much as we can and help as many victims as we can."

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    LPGA schedule features 34 events, record purse

    By Randall MellDecember 13, 2017, 2:02 pm

    The LPGA schedule will once again feature 34 events next year with a record $68.75 million in total purses, the tour announced on Wednesday.

    While three events are gone from the 2018 schedule, three new events have been added, with two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China.

    The season will again start with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Paradise Island (Jan. 25-28) and end with the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla., (Nov. 15-18).

    The LPGA played for $65 million in total prize money in 2017.

    An expanded West Coast swing in the front half of the schedule will now include the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in the Los Angeles area April 19-22. The site will be announced at a later date.

    The tour will then make a return to San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week, in a new event sponsored by L&P Cosmetics, a Korean skincare company. Both new West Coast tournaments will be full-field events.

    The tour’s third new event will be played in Shanghai Oct. 18-21 as part of the fall Asian swing. The title sponsor and golf course will be announced at a later date.

    “Perhaps the most important aspect of our schedule is the consistency — continuing to deliver strong playing opportunities both in North America and around the world, while growing overall purse levels every year,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement. “There is simply no better [women’s] tour opportunity in the world, when it comes to purses, global TV coverage or strength of field. It’s an exciting time in women’s golf, with the best players from every corner of the globe competing against each other in virtually every event.”

    While the Evian Championship will again be played in September next year, the tour confirmed its plans to move its fifth major to the summer in 2019, to be part of a European swing, with the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    The Manulife LPGA Classic and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational are not returning to the schedule next year. Also, the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front of the 2019 schedule, to be paired with the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.

    The U.S. Women’s Open will make its new place earlier in the summer, a permanent move in the tour’s scheduling. It will be played May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek Golf Club outside Birmingham, Ala. The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (June 28-July 1) will be played at Kemper Lakes Golf Club on the north side of Chicago and the Ricoh Women’s British Open (Aug. 2-5) will be played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.

    For the first time since its inception in 2014, the UL International Crown team event is going overseas, with the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled to host the event Oct. 4-7. The KEB Hana Bank Championship will be played in South Korean the following week.

    Here is the LPGA's schedule for 2018:

    Jan. 25-28: Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic; Paradise Island, Bahamas; Purse: $1.4 million

    Feb. 15-18: ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open; Adelaide, Australia; Purse: $1.3 million

    Feb. 21-24: Honda LPGA Thailand; Chonburi, Thailand; Purse: $1.6 million

    March 1-4: HSBC Women's World Championship; Singapore; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 15-18: Bank of Hope Founders Cup; Phoenix, Arizona; Purse: $1.5 million

    March 22-25: Kia Classic; Carlsbad, California; Purse: $1.8 million

    March 29 - April 1: ANA Inspiration; Rancho Mirage, California; Purse: $2.8 million

    April 11-14: LOTTE Championship; Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii; Purse: $2 million

    April 19-22: HUGEL-JTBC Championship; Greater Los Angeles, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    April 26-29: Name to be Announced; San Francisco, California; Purse: $1.5 million

    May 3-6: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic; The Colony, Texas; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 17-20: Kingsmill Championship; Williamsburg, Virginia; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 24-27: LPGA Volvik Championship; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Purse: $1.3 million

    May 31 - June 3: U.S. Women's Open Championship; Shoal Creek, Alabama; Purse: $5 million

    June 8-10: ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer; Galloway, New Jersey; Purse: $1.75 million

    June 14-17: Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Purse: $2 million

    June 22-24: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G; Rogers, Arkansas; Purse: $2 million

    June 28 - July 1: KPMG Women's PGA Championship; Kildeer, Illinois; Purse: $3.65 million

    July 5-8: Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic; Oneida, Wisconsin; Purse: $2 million

    July 12-15: Marathon Classic presented by Owens-Corning and O-I; Sylvania, Ohio; Purse: $1.6 million

    July 26-29: Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open; East Lothian, Scotland; Purse: $1.5 million

    Aug. 2-5: Ricoh Women's British Open; Lancashire, England; Purse: $3.25 million

    Aug. 16-19: Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim; Indianapolis, Indiana; Purse: $2 million

    Aug. 23-26: CP Women's Open; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Purse: $2.25 million

    Aug. 30 - Sept. 2: Cambia Portland Classic; Portland, Oregon; Purse: $1.3 million

    Sept. 13-16: The Evian Championship; Evian-les-Bains, France; Purse: $3.85 million

    Sept. 27-30: Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Purse: $1.8 million

    Oct. 4-7: UL International Crown; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $1.6 million

    Oct. 11-14: LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship; Incheon, Korea; Purse: $2 million

    Oct. 18-21: Name to be Announced; Shanghai, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Oct. 25-28: Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship; New Taipei City, Chinese Taipei; Purse: $2.2 million

    Nov. 2-4: TOTO Japan Classic; Shiga, Japan; Purse: $1.5 million

    Nov. 7-10: Blue Bay LPGA; Hainan Island, China; Purse: $2.1 million

    Nov. 15-18: CME Group Tour Championship; Naples, Florida; Purse: $2.5 million

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 4, Jordan Spieth

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 1:00 pm

    Dismissed because he’s supposedly too short off the tee, or not accurate enough with his irons, or just a streaky putter, Jordan Spieth is almost never the answer to the question of which top player, when he’s at his best, would win in a head-to-head match.

    And yet here he is, at the age of 24, with 11 career wins and three majors, on a pace that compares favorably with the giants of the game. He might not possess the firepower of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, but since he burst onto the PGA Tour in 2013 he has all that matters – a better résumé.

    Spieth took the next step in his development this year by becoming the Tour’s best iron player – and its most mentally tough.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    Just a great putter? Oh, puhleeze: He won three times despite putting statistics (42nd) that were his worst since his rookie year. Instead, he led the Tour in strokes gained-approach the green and this summer showed the discipline, golf IQ and bounce-back ability that makes him such a unique talent. 

    Even with his putter misbehaving, Spieth closed out the Travelers Championship by holing a bunker shot in the playoff, then, in perhaps an even bigger surprise, perfectly executed the player-caddie celebration, chest-bumping caddie Michael Greller. A few weeks later, sublime iron play carried him into the lead at Royal Birkdale, his first in a major since his epic collapse at the 2016 Masters.

    Once again his trusty putter betrayed him, and by the time he arrived on the 13th tee, he was tied with Matt Kuchar. What happened next was the stuff of legend – a lengthy ruling, gutsy up-and-down, stuffed tee shot and go-get-that putt – that lifted Spieth to his third major title.

    Though he couldn’t complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA, he’ll likely have, oh, another two decades to join golf’s most exclusive club.

    In the barroom debate of best vs. best, you can take the guys with the flair, with the booming tee shots and the sky-high irons. Spieth will just take the trophies.

    THE MAJORS

    Masters Tournament: Return to the 12th; faltering on Sunday (T-11)

    Spieth pars 12, but makes quad on 15

    Spieth takes another gut punch, but still standing

    Article: Spieth splashes to worst Masters finish

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    U.S. Open: 1 over usually good ... not at Erin Hills (T-35)

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    The Open: Unforgettable finish leads to major win No. 3 (1st)

    Spieth survives confusing ordeal on 13

    Photos: Spieth's incredible journey on 13

    Take it, it's yours: Spieth gets claret jug

    Chamblee: Spieth doesn't have 'it' - 'he has it all'

    Article: Spieth silences his doubters - even himself

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    PGA Championship: Career Grand Slam bid comes up well short (T-28)

    Article: Spieth accepts that Grand Slam is off the table


    TWO REGULAR TOUR WINS

    AT&T Pebble Beach

    Article: Spieth rising from 'valley' after Pebble Beach win

    Travelers Championship

    Spieith wins dramatic Travelers in playoff

    Watch: Spieth holes bunker shot, goes nuts


    FUN OUTSIDE OF TOUR LIFE


    PHOTO GALLERIES

    Photos: Jordan Spieth and Annie Verret

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    Photos: Jordan Spieth through the years

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 13, 2017, 12:30 pm